This county is situated in the south-southeast part of the State, bounded on the east by Reynolds and Carter, on the west by Texas, on the north by Oregon and Carter Counties. The first settlements were made here in 1819; yet there are now (1860) by 1978 inhabitants.
The Physical Features of the county are similar to those of Reynolds County - generally broken and well timbered. The greater portion of the soil is well adapted to fruit and grape culture, and also to the production of grasses and cereals. The valleys are generally fertile. The county is traversed in a southeasterly direction by Current River, (an affluent of Black River) and by their numerous tributaries. The Current is a rapid stream, affording an abundance of water power which could be improved to good advantage.
Most of the land was entered in 1858-59, at 12 1/2 cents per acre; previous to which time but few entries were made except of the copper lands. Seven townships were reserved by government as "copper lands," and of these 140,000 acres are still (January, 1860) subject to entry at $1.25 per acre. But few farms are opened yet; corn, wheat, rye, and oats are the most profitable crops. Some portions of this county have generally been looked upon as unproductive, yet some farms opened have produced per acre: wheat, 30 bushels; rye, 30; oats, 30; potatoes, 150; turnips, 200; tobacco, 1000 pounds; and an abundant crop of apples and peaches; and some of the old settlers in this and other portions of the State seem disposed to complain because they lived in certain localities so long, endured so many (p 383) privations, and met with such ill success. In this county there are settlements 25 to 30 years old, that have not a fruit tree nor a grape vine on the whole place; while there is no better soil or climate for fruit or grapes in the Union probably, and no more certain or profitable crop; and ten dollars' worth of fruit trees and vines planted 20 years ago and properly cultivated, would now be worth as many hundreds.
Minerals - This county is very rich in minerals; containing immense deposits of hematite iron ore, lead ore, and very extensive beds of copper of a superior quality, in townships 28 and 29, ranges 34 and 35 west. Some of these mines will be opened and worked to great profit at an early day. Some gold has been discovered in this county in hornblende and quartz rock, associated with magnetic iron ores; as yet it is entirely undeveloped.
EMINENCE, the seat of justice, is a brisk town, situated a little above the center of the county on Current River, and is surrounded by a good agricultural country.
This county is in the southern part of the State, has an area of about 1250 square miles. The so-called Ozark Mountains extend through this county,and a very considerable portion of it is what may be termed "broken." There are extensive forests of yellow pine, and some of the largest pine-trees in the State are found in this county. The surface is fertile, but the county at large is better adapted for lumbering, stock raising, fruit growing, and mineral purposes, than for agriculture.
The first settlements in the territory now embraced in this county were made in 1820, by Patton, Boone, Truesdale, Baldridge, McDonald, Buckhardt, Ormsby, and others, who built saw-mills at an early day on Piney River, and rafted the lumber to St. Louis, down the Gasconade River. If lumbering business was profitable or practicable 30 or 30 years ago, when the State was a wilderness, and St. Louis had less than 9000 population, certainly it should be now, when we have a population of upwards of 200,000, and an unlimited demand for lumber of all kinds, to supply which the lumber is brought several hundred miles by river, lake, and railroad. Capitalists would do well to investigate this matter. There are extensive pineries much nearer, and some of them convenient to or traversed by rivers and railroads.
Iron and lead ores have been found in this county, but its present remoteness from railroad communications have deterred parties from making thoroughly investigations as to quantity or quality. Clay suitable for stone-ware, and lime and sand stone for building purposes are abundant.
HOUSTON, the county-seat, in common with the great portion of Missouri, was sadly "demoralized" by the war, and but few of the original 200 population were left; but immigrants are settling up the county rapidly, and many of the towns, almost or quite depopulated by the war, have a larger, more intelligent, and more energetic population now than ever before. From Houston to Springfield, 80 miles; to Ironton, 65; to nearest point on the Southwest Pacific R. R., 40 miles.
* "Missouri As It Is IN 1867: an illustrated historical gazatteer of Missouri"
Missouri Digital Heritage site